|Publication number||US8484088 B1|
|Application number||US 10/960,408|
|Publication date||9 Jul 2013|
|Filing date||6 Oct 2004|
|Priority date||6 Oct 2004|
|Publication number||10960408, 960408, US 8484088 B1, US 8484088B1, US-B1-8484088, US8484088 B1, US8484088B1|
|Inventors||Mark Orttung, Jerome Chen, Anson Mah, Martin Herrmann|
|Original Assignee||Rearden Commerce Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (73), Non-Patent Citations (1), Referenced by (30), Classifications (4), Legal Events (10)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is related to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/347,769, which was filed on Jan. 9, 2002; titled “Automatic Services Exchange”, which is incorporated herein by reference. This application is also related to patent application Ser. No. 10/338,363 filed Jan. 7, 2003 titled “Automatic Services Exchange”, and which is also incorporated herein by reference.
This invention relates generally to procurement of services, and more particularly to improving customer satisfaction in booking process.
A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever. The following notice applies to the software and data as described below and in the drawings hereto: Copyrightę 2001, Gazoo, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
The increasingly mobile, remote and distributed nature of today's workforce makes it difficult for an organization to provide adequate administrative support for their workers. As a result, the workers themselves must spend part of their working day identifying, procuring, managing, coordinating and accessing the services they need to perform their job. Additionally, even people who are not mobile or remote workers find that they have less time to spend in organizing the services they need for their business or personal life.
This problem is further exacerbated when many workers must attend off-site events requiring travel plans including airfare, sleeping accommodations and local transportation. The distributed nature of the workforce could result in numerous people staying in varying hotels, renting individual cars and/or transportation to and from airports and event locations. This can add up to the redundant cost of travel-related services.
Another problem is the inherent lack of knowledge between workers as to who is attending a given event, further hindering a chance for coordinated travel arrangements. Online systems such as Evite, Yahoo Calendar and Microsoft Outlook have brought together group notices of events and meetings. This has allowed workers to know who has been invited and whether they plan to attend a given event. However such systems do not alleviate the problem of redundancy in the booking of event-related services to attend such off-site events. Organizations have an interest in reducing redundant expenses such as individual rental cars and hotel rooms. However, they often lack the bandwidth to coordinate a sharing of such services.
In one embodiment a system and method are described to determine the cause of the issue in procuring the service is and, based on a set of rules, offer the user a path to complete the procurement successfully.
In one embodiment, a system and method are described to determine when a supplier is not available and queue requests until the supplier system is available again.
In one embodiment, a system and method are described to actively manage the status of each account so that the user's transactions do not fail because of mis-configured or expired account configuration status.
The present invention describes systems, clients, servers, methods, and computer-readable media of varying scope. In addition to the aspects and advantages of the present invention described in this summary, further aspects and advantages of the invention will become apparent by reference to the drawings and by reading the detailed description that follows.
In the following detailed description of embodiments of the invention, reference is made to the accompanying drawings in which like references indicate similar elements, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that logical, mechanical, electrical, functional, and other changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims.
A system level overview of the operation of one embodiment of an automatic services exchange system 100 is described by reference to
The services available through the exchange component 101 include travel services, entertainment service, personal services (e.g., haircutting), educational services, business administrative services and the like. Some services may be time critical, e.g., a dinner reservation at a particular time. The service request specifies other required criteria for the service, such as location (e.g., a certain geographic area), type, duration, quantity, price information (e.g., preferred price or price range and maximum price), etc. Additionally, a single service request may actually require services from multiple different service providers which are linked or associated. For example, if a user is planning a business trip, the request will often require services from airlines, hotels and car rental agencies and perhaps other services which are linked to or associated with the business trip.
The automatic services exchange component 101 automatically sends the service request to various service providers. In one embodiment, this transmission may be through several different electronic communication media such as structured e-mail, XML, IVR, etc. In the event that the exchange component 101 is unable to automatically procure the service requested by the user, the request is transferred to the backup call center component 103. For example, assume that request C 115 from user C 113 could not be automatically fulfilled by the exchange component 101. As illustrated in
Assuming there is at least one positive reply, the broker 131 sends a response 127 to the requestor 121 with the results indicating at least one response matched the request. Depending on parameters set by the requestor 121, if multiple positive replies are received by the broker 131, the broker may choose the best match based on the required or predetermined criteria or it may send responses for all the positive replies to the requestor 121 for selection. The requestor 121 may also authorize the broker 131 to contract for the service under certain circumstances without waiting for approval from the requestor 121. A match to request typically means that the response from the service provider is within the range of acceptable requesting parameters such as time of service, location of service, price of service, level (e.g., quality requested) of service, and other parameters specified by the request.
As illustrated in phantom in
Also shown in phantom in
The broker 131 reviews, through an automatic machine implemented process, the service requests to determine if the service request is actually a request for multiple services, such as multiple services which are linked or associated such as those associated with an event (e.g., a business trip which requires airline tickets, rental car reservation and hotel reservation). The resulting operation is illustrated in
The particular methods of the invention are now described in terms of computer software with reference to a series of flowcharts. The methods to be performed by a computer constitute computer programs made up of computer-executable instructions illustrated as blocks (acts). Describing the methods by reference to a flowchart enables one skilled in the art to develop such programs including such instructions to carry out the methods on suitably configured computers (e.g., the processor of the computer executing the instructions from computer-readable media). The computer-executable instructions may be written in a computer programming language or may be embodied in firmware logic. If written in a programming language conforming to a recognized standard, such instructions can be executed on a variety of hardware platforms and for interface to a variety of operating systems. In addition, the present invention is not described with reference to any particular programming language. It will be appreciated that a variety of programming languages may be used to implement the teachings of the invention as described herein. Furthermore, it is common in the art to speak of software, in one form or another (e.g., program, procedure, process, application, module, logic . . . ), as taking an action or causing a result. Such expressions are merely a shorthand way of saying that execution of the software by a computer causes the processor of the computer to perform an action or a produce a result.
Referring first to
The service request method 200 processes the replies for each request separately as illustrated by request loop starting at block 209. It will be appreciated that multiple request loops may be running concurrently. The requestor may specify a time which is associated with a deadline for completion of a search for a match to a request. In one embodiment, the requestor specifies a predetermined required period of time (time out period or deadline) within which replies must be received or by which time the requestor should be contacted by the exchange to inform the requestor of the incomplete status of a request. In another embodiment, the time out period is determined by the method 200 based on time criteria specified in the request. The request loop waits at block 209 until an incoming reply is received or until the time out period expires. When the request loop is activated by an incoming reply (block 211), the reply is recorded at block 213. If all replies have not yet been received, the request loop returns to its wait state. If all replies have been received, the particular request loop ends (block 215) and the method 200 proceeds to block 217 to evaluate the replies. Alternatively, if the time out period expires before any or all replies are received, the method 200 also proceeds to block 217. The time out period can provide the exchange system with some time to attempt to “manually” (through the intervention of a human operator) procure the service with enough time before the service is actually required. If the user/requestor fails to specify a time out period, the exchange system may specify a default time out period which is at least several hours before the requested time of the service (e.g., a 4:30 p.m. time out for a dinner reservation at 7:30 p.m.) or at least one day before the requested date of the service. Further, this time out period also allows the requestor to be notified of a failure to procure a service before the time requested for the service so that the requestor can take appropriate actions.
At block 217, the method 200 determines if any positive replies were received. If not, the corresponding request is transferred to the backup call center (which includes human operators) for processing along with all replies (block 219) so the backup call center knows the current status of the request (e.g., who has replied to the request, who has not, etc.). The processing represented by block 219 is described in more detail in conjunction with
If multiple services were requested, the method 200 determines if at least one service provider has replied positively to each service request (block 221). Requests that cannot been procured are sent to the backup call center at block 219, while positive replies are processed at block 223 (e.g., by sending out confirmations to the requestor and the service providers to secure the providing of the service). Similarly, if only one service was requested and at least one reply is positive, the method 200 proceeds to block 223 to process the reply. The processing represented by block 223 is described next.
One embodiment of a process reply method 230 is illustrated in
If more than one match is wanted at block 235 (as specified by a predetermined preference sent by the requestor or as set as a default by a system of the exchange service), a response containing all positive replies is sent to the requestor for selection (block 247) and the method 230 waits to receive approval of one of the providers at block 249. As in the case of a single reply, the method 230 contracts for or otherwise reserves the service from the approved provider at block 241 and returns a confirmation message at block 243, or the request is terminated if no approval is received.
Turning now to
The first positive reply at block 269 causes the method 260 to determine if the requester has authorized the automatic services exchange system to automatically procure the service (block 277). If so, the method 260 contracts or otherwise reserves the service from the corresponding service provider (block 279) and sends a confirmation request confirmation to the requestor that the service has been procured (block 281). If, however, there is no authorization at block 277, the information in the reply is sent to the requestor (block 283) and the method 260 waits to receive approval from the requestor. If approval is received (block 285), the method 260 contracts for or otherwise reserves the approved service and sends a confirmation as previously described. However, if approval of the particular service is not received from the requestor, a failure message is sent to the requester at block 272.
As described previously, the automatic services exchange system optionally can send change notices to the requester to alert him/her of changes in a procured service or receive a modified request from the requestor even after the services have been procured. One embodiment of a service change method 300 that communicates changes is illustrated in
The particular methods performed by computers acting as the automatic services exchange and backup call center components for one embodiment of the invention have been described with reference to flowcharts in
The following description of
The web server 9 is typically at least one computer system which operates as a server computer system and is configured to operate with the protocols of the World Wide Web and is coupled to the Internet. Optionally, the web server 9 can be part of an ISP which provides access to the Internet for client systems. The web server 9 is shown coupled to the server computer system 11 which itself is coupled to web content 10, which can be considered a form of a media database. It will be appreciated that while two computer systems 9 and 11 are shown in
Client computer systems 21, 25, 35, and 37 can each, with the appropriate web browsing software, view HTML pages provided by the web server 9. The ISP 5 provides Internet connectivity to the client computer system 21 through the modem interface 23 which can be considered part of the client computer system 21. The client computer system can be a personal computer system, a network computer, a Web TV system, a handheld wireless device, or other such computer system. Similarly, the ISP 7 provides Internet connectivity for client systems 25, 35, and 37, although as shown in
Alternatively, as well-known, a server computer system 43 can be directly coupled to the LAN 33 through a network interface 45 to provide files 47 and other services to the clients 35, 37, without the need to connect to the Internet through the gateway system 31.
It will be appreciated that the computer system 51 is one example of many possible computer systems which have different architectures. For example, personal computers based on an Intel microprocessor often have multiple buses, one of which can be an input/output (I/O) bus for the peripherals and one that directly connects the processor 55 and the memory 59 (often referred to as a memory bus). The buses are connected together through bridge components that perform any necessary translation due to differing bus protocols.
Network computers are another type of computer system that can be used with the present invention. Network computers do not usually include a hard disk or other mass storage, and the executable programs are loaded from a network connection into the memory 59 for execution by the processor 55. A Web TV system, which is known in the art, is also considered to be a computer system according to the present invention, but it may lack some of the features shown in
It will also be appreciated that the computer system 51 is controlled by operating system software which includes a file management system, such as a disk operating system, which is part of the operating system software. One example of an operating system software with its associated file management system software is the family of operating systems known as Windows« from Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash., and their associated file management systems. The file management system is typically stored in the non-volatile storage 65 and causes the processor 55 to execute the various acts required by the operating system to input and output data and to store data in memory, including storing files on the non-volatile storage 65.
One embodiment of the present invention permits group members to add additional reservations onto an existing reservation of a group leader, supervisor or any other member of the group in such a manner as to synchronize travel plans and coordinate locations, etc., both in terms of travel time, sharing rides, staying at the same hotel, tee times, and other services one may desire when attending an event. But rather than book all group members at once, individual group members may make plans separately, to accommodate instances in which group members are, for example, traveling from different locations, or are arriving at different times, etc. For example, a sales person may be coming from a different customer site in another city, while the marketing person and the technical person may be coming from the home office.
Thus in the example embodiment shown in
The system illustrated in
Yet in some cases, if a member needs to come in late, for example due to a previous meeting, he may not share in some aspects, such as the share car ride for example etc. In other circumstances, if a member needs special facilities, not available at the hotel/car/flight chosen for the group, the member may break out of the group arrangements. This may be on a case by case basis, with approval and or notification of the group leader, his supervisor etc., or may be pre-defined in the member's profile in some cases.
In yet other cases, a user may be able to forward their service request in an automatic fashion. For example, a user could initiate a group by inviting others to join for a meeting at a specific date, time, and location. Once they have done this, they have formed a group. Once one member of the group has booked their travel for this particular meeting, they would be prompted to see if they are willing to share their itinerary with the other members of the group. If they give permission for the other members to see the itinerary, all other members of the group would be automatically notified by the system. When notified, the other members of the group would be given options to book similar or identical services. When other group members select an option, a service request such as (123) in
In process 710, Group Member B decides (or may be forced) whether to book shared service, or not. In the case of shared service, process 711 checks for availability of shared space, i.e. number of guests in a hotel room, available seats on same flight, available space in Limo etc. In case of availability, in process 712, Group Member B's shared service is reserved. In process 713, both members (or as many as are in the group) are notified of a successful shared trip. In the case of no availability, an identical booking is pursued in process 721, but not a shared one.
In the case of non-shared services of process 710, process 720 determines whether identical services are required. If yes, an identical booking is pursued in process 721. If not identical, similar or as specified services are booked in process 722.
Following both processes 721 and 722, process 723 deals with the booking failure of Group Member B, due to lack of inventory matching the requirements. In process 730, a recovery is attempted by checking for alternative services for all group members. If they are not available, process 731 notifies all group members of separate bookings. If an alternative service is available for all group members, in process 730 all members are booked into those alternative services in process 732. Then the group members are notified of the success in process 733.
In many software applications, much of the complexity of the business logic and connections between systems is hidden from the end user. This transparency causes problems for the end user because he has no way to interact with the process and help resolve the issues. There may be any number of unknown causes of failures during the transaction process. The system often does not know how to handle many specific error conditions resulting from the interaction with a third-party system, whether that third party system is a global distribution system or a supplier inventory system.
If a fault occurs, for example, that vendor 2 due to a problem 832 cannot respond to the information input via connection 822, then typically the user would be prompted to default through path 826 to process step 805. Process step 805 may ask the user to visit the Web site again, or may offer to save the information input thus far to the Web site and continue at a later time. This is the typical situation, but it is the user's duty to go back and continue pursuing it.
What is clearly needed is a system and method to intelligently determine the cause of the issue in procuring the service is and, based on a set of rules, offer the user a path to complete the procurement successfully.
What is further needed is a system and method intelligent enough to know when a supplier is not available and queue requests until the supplier system is available again.
Further, such a system 800 may sometimes not have each end user account fully configured with all of the information needed to successfully confirm reservations in process step 804. For instance, the end user account may be missing a username or password required to access a supplier system. What is further clearly needed is a system that actively manages the status of each account so that the user's transactions does not fail because of mis-configured or expired account configuration status.
Typically, when services are being procured, a number of issues may arise, including limited availability, changing prices from initial quotes, and possibly errors caused by the inventory system of the supplier. Also, suppliers are not always available to respond to requests in real time.
Depending on the type of problem, the transaction may also be escalated at process step 904 to a contact center 910, where a live agent 912 using screen 911 may, for example, have access to the internal database of vendor 2, or may even call or email (or otherwise notify) vendor 2 to complete the transaction and then manually enter the missing data into the transaction process steps 801 through 804 through interaction in process step 904, thus allowing the transaction to be completed via path 905 and be completely transparent to the user, except for a small additional delay.
In yet other cases, for example, when the problem lies not so much in a fault as in a process rule regarding booking times, then a time component 909 may keep the case active in process step 904 until the booking time arrives. For example, many airlines restrict flight bookings to a certain time window. Rather than keeping the user waiting, or asking the user to check again, or telling him that the flight cannot be booked, which is the typical standard operation, time component 909 may “keep the request in mind” and try to book it as soon as the booking window at the vendor opens. Other examples of limited-time booking windows are overnight shipping, which typically can only be booked less than 24 hours ahead of the shipping time; or certain event registrations that may have a specific narrow booking window, where, for example, online booking may be only opened one month ahead of the date of an event and closed a week ahead. By proceeding through the process according to the novel art of this disclosure, the user may “prebook” and be in a virtual waiting queue outside the box office window.
When the booking steps are complete, the system, as part of the confirmation process step 904, requires information about payment for the bookings. Using an intelligent user profile, the system could store information about the employee's accounts with each supplier. If the user does not have a supplier account properly set up, the system could, for example, ask the user to create one or enter his credentials before submitting a reservation request with that supplier. The system would then present to a user a list of steps required to successfully configure and validate his account before using the system.
The processes described above can be stored in a memory of a computer system as a set of instructions to be executed. In addition, the instructions to perform the processes described above could alternatively be stored on other forms of machine-readable media, including magnetic and optical disks. For example, the processes described could be stored on machine-readable media, such as magnetic disks or optical disks, which are accessible via a disk drive (or computer-readable medium drive). Further, the instructions can be downloaded into a computing device over a data network in a form of compiled and linked version.
Alternatively, the logic to perform the processes as discussed above could be implemented in additional computer and/or machine readable media, such as discrete hardware components as large-scale integrated circuits (LSI's), application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC's), firmware, such as electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM's); and electrical, optical, acoustical and other forms of propagated signals (e.g., carrier waves, infrared signals, digital signals, etc.); etc.
Whereas many alterations and modifications of the present invention will no doubt become apparent to a person of ordinary skill in the art after having read the foregoing description, it is to be understood that any particular embodiment shown and described by way of illustration is in no way intended to be considered limiting. Therefore, references to details of various embodiments are not intended to limit the scope of the claims which in them selves recite only those features regarded as essential to the invention.
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|Cooperative Classification||G06Q10/06, G06Q10/02|
|6 Oct 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: TALARIS CORPORATION, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ORTTUNG, MARK;CHEN, JEROME;MAH, ANSON;AND OTHERS;SIGNING DATES FROM 20040930 TO 20041006;REEL/FRAME:015885/0454
|13 Feb 2006||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: REARDEN COMMERCE INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNORS:ORTTUNG, MARK;CHEN, JEROME;MAH, ANSON;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017563/0276
Effective date: 20050125
|21 Sep 2009||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: LABMORGAN INVESTMENT CORPORATION, NEW YORK
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:REARDEN COMMERCE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:023254/0243
Effective date: 20090917
|28 Sep 2010||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: GOLD HILL CAPITAL 2008, LP, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:REARDEN COMMERCE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:025051/0095
Effective date: 20100909
|16 Apr 2012||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: REARDEN COMMERCE, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: RELEASE BY SECURED PARTY;ASSIGNOR:LABMORGAN INVESTMENT CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:028053/0769
Effective date: 20120413
Owner name: REARDEN COMMERCE, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: RELEASE BY SECURED PARTY;ASSIGNOR:GOLD HILL CAPITAL 2008, LP;REEL/FRAME:028053/0556
Effective date: 20120412
|7 Nov 2012||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: LABMORGAN INVESTMENT CORPORATION, NEW YORK
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:REARDEN COMMERCE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:029259/0491
Effective date: 20120907
|20 Sep 2013||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: REARDEN COMMERCE, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: RELEASE BY SECURED PARTY;ASSIGNOR:LABMORGAN INVESTMENT CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:031249/0616
Effective date: 20130919
|21 May 2015||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: DEEM, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:REARDEN COMMERCE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:035772/0888
Effective date: 20130919
|9 Feb 2017||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|9 Feb 2017||SULP||Surcharge for late payment|